Oak Harbor school officials look to levy to fund replacement of aging textbooks

Oak Harbor School District officials said they hope a levy passes in February so the district can replace 15-year-old textbooks.

Passing a levy next year will provide the funding needed to replace aging social studies materials along with other subjects in subsequent years.

The Oak Harbor School Board has been holding monthly workshops to discuss how either passage or failure of the levy would affect the school district. Voters in February 2013 will decide on a four-year replacement levy that will raise $7.5 million for the school district.

If the levy is approved, which requires a 50-percent majority, then the school district will start replacing its curriculums, something it hasn’t done for four years.

North Whidbey Middle School Principal Bill Weinsheimer advocated the return of the old calendar the district used for curriculum adoptions. The district should purchase new social studies and science materials.

“I think those are the two areas that have suffered tremendously,” Weinsheimer said.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said it costs roughly $600,000 for a new curriculum, which includes texts, testing materials, CDs, and some time for staff development.

Should the levy fail, then the school district will continue using current materials and also make an additional $300,000 in supply cuts. The list of cuts would include science lab supplies and materials, library subscriptions and books and other supplies.

Schulte said it’s best to discuss such topics now because the district will be prepared when the results of the levy are known, especially if it fails.

“If the levy fails, it’s really, really scary and we have to come to grips with that,” Schulte said during the workshop.

If the February levy proposal fails, the school district could run the measure in May; however, officials would still have to make reductions in preparation for the 2013-2014 school year, which would mean staff layoffs, Schulte said.

Regardless of how the levy results, school board member Peter Hunt said the school district should examine using open education resources, which he argued would provide more flexibility in learning and can be updated each year for a fraction of the cost of a traditional curriculum.

Peter Szalai was skeptical about such an idea without seeing the quality of the materials and how well it would engage students.

School board member Corey Johnson also questioned the total costs of the resources.

The crux of an early October school board workshop concerned textbooks and technology, which have become intertwined in recent years. The school district may also have to lay off as many as four technology staff and deal with the loss of $700,000 a year for technology maintenance and upgrades.

Schulte said classes such as computer-aided drafting and visual communications would probably be eliminated with the loss of levy dollars. The school district would look at mothballing equipment staff couldn’t maintain and eliminating many student usages for computers.

The Oak Harbor School Board will continue to hold the monthly workshops the second Monday of the month.

Schulte predicted the November workshop will be well attended because school board and staff will discuss how a levy success or failure will affect activities and athletics.


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